By Ben Jealous
President and CEO, NAACP
If you have not already heard, we have great news: Gladys and Jamie Scott will soon be free.
Last week, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour suspended their sentences, and the sisters are returning home for the first time in 16 years. As those of you who have been following this case are aware, Judge Marcus Gordon had condemned each of the women to double life sentences for an $11 robbery – an outrage emblematic of the biases systemic in our criminal justice system.
Yesterday I flew to Jackson, Mississippi, to meet with Governor Barbour to urge him to make the righteous – and courageous – decision. The minute my plane landed, he called to tell me that he had agreed to the suspension. As I prepare to meet with him today, alongside Derrick Johnson, President of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, I want to be clear about one thing: this vindication is because of you. You raised your voice. You kept the faith.
When we couldn’t visit the Scott sisters, you wrote messages of support to let them know we remembered them. When we wouldn’t be heard by the political and judicial powers that be, you spoke louder. And because of your perseverance, the Scott sisters’ nightmare is finally over.
The last time I was in Mississippi, I was there to file the petition for clemency with Chokwe Lumumba, the Scott sisters’ lawyer, and Charles Hampton, Vice President of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP.
Today, thanks to you, I am back in Mississippi to show the world that the NAACP will not stand idly by as our sisters and brothers are wrongly imprisoned.
I am humbled by how far your support has taken the Scott sisters on the road to justice and freedom. With every step forward, we will secure a brighter future for their children, our children and our children’s children.